Noah's Eclectic Bistro has been taunting me with its enticing aromas and modest hours since I moved to Charleston. A menu that changes weekly, a small dining area and higher prices, this place was nearly unattainable for some time. I tried to walk in once, but they were booked that night. That made me want to go even more. In one of my final nights in Charleston, my friend Brittany and I made reservations (highly suggested - 304-343-6558) to secure our spot, dressed up a bit and pretended like we had the money to spend.
right across from Charleston Newspapers. Luckily, my parking garage was right there, so parking wasn't an issue for me. For others, it's downtown parking, so do with that what you will. It's only open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
It has just 11 tables, and the menu changes weekly to accommodate seasonal ingredients. Inside, it's pretty minimal. Dark woods, nothing on the tables, save for napkin and silverware, dark curtains, kind of dark. Where we were seated, we could see the prep area outside the kitchen, so it was cool seeing dishes so delicately prepared and sent to the customer. It also made us incredibly impatient and excited for every meal.
Our server brought us water and menus. Because it changes weekly, the menus are very limited. I kind of liked that, though, and between the two of us, we had half of what' son the menu. To start out, we both got an appetizer: she got the "stuffed fried fresh morels" while I got the "braised chicken empanadas."
The stuffed fried fresh morels were probably one of my least favorite dishes of the night. That said, it's better than many dishes you'd get at an average restaurant. There was goat cheese stuffed inside the mushroom, which was supposed to be "lightly" tempura fried, with garlic cream and baby greens. My problem is that it was SO fried that I didn't get the fresh mushroom taste and it fought with the cheese flavor. When I had pieces that were less fried, the garlic cream sauce was lovely.
I loved the empanadas. They were served with pico de gallo, queso fresco and salsa verde. Unlike the mushrooms, these were cooked perfectly with a slight crisp on the outside but pillowy inside. Full of fresh, vibrant flavors. It was lighter and a much better option of the two we had. Both of these were fairly small for being $15 and $11, respectively. But empanadas win on both flavor and value.
For my main course, I went with the crab crusted tempura fried jumbo sea scallops. Brittany ordered the pan roasted gulf black grouper. When mine came out, it was a huge heap of brilliant colors and textures and I couldn't wait to dig in. It was large sea scallops skewered with crab on top, which was all then tempura fried with stir-fry vegetables, spicy mayo and soy sauce. It was kind of amazing. It was fried, but in a much lighter way than the appetizers, and it didn't control the flavor - it just accented it.
It was just fantastic. Between the slightly crunchy vegetables and the crisp of the batter, the sweet tang of the sauce - the scallops were cooked perfectly. Just divine.
Brittany's dish was also a lovely concoction of flavors. The grouper was atop a bed of risotto, kale, stewed tomatoes and shaved parmesan. It was this plate of different levels of colors and textures. While Brittany was not sold when she took a bite of the fish, when she combined all the elements together in a bite, it sung for her.
I did the same thing - tried everything at once - some sauce, some risotto, some tomato, some fish, and it was just great. Her dish was a good bit bigger and maybe more filling than mine, but I think the flavors of mine were a bit more bold.
For dinner, we both wanted the fresh lemon curd, which is phyllo crisps, fresh berries and mascarpone cream. But instead, we ordered one of those and one of the mixed berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Thank god we opted for both.
The lemon dessert was fresh and had a citrusy flavor, but it was almost too much. I think the curd have been toned way down so that the marscapone and fresh berries have a role. It was just too acidic - to the point where my lips puckered a few times.
The cobbler - while safe - was phenomenal. It was baked in this cup that had this light flakey topping and just a heavenly mixture of berries inside. On top was a scoop of ice cream. It was like every ounce of comfort food wrapped up in a luxurious shell. It was warm, thick, sweet, flaky, cold all at once. A great thing.
One of my favorite restaurants in Charleston, but definitely not one that a journalist budget could afford often.